By Anj Handa
At many of the business seminars for women that I have attended, talk about personal brand is often limited to dressing for success, wearing the right colours, how to accessorise. So many workshops teach women to focus on their appearance. As if we don’t get enough of that from the media.
Your personal brand is so much more than the way you dress. Click To Tweet Dressing appropriately is, of course, an important component of your personal brand, but it’s certainly not the only part. It’s also more than having a firm handshake, good posture, an important title or fancy business cards.
As a small business owner who works at board level and is regularly featured in the media, my reputation and my income depends on having a strong brand. I’ve had to get really good at it and I’m going to share some tips (and a slip-up) with you here.
In a digital world, people make assessments about you before you even meet in person. An online search on Google and LinkedIn can quickly establish your credibility in the eyes of new contacts – or have the reverse effect.
For example, if you position yourself as an influencer in a particular field, but don’t have any related articles published online, your claim will called into question. People want to see content, whether it’s in the form of an article, a video or photographs of an event where you were able to influence debate.
I accept that it’s not always easy to be published in the media, but how about getting a blog on your company website, posting LinkedIn articles, guest blogging, or simply using relevant hashtags on Twitter? These are just a few ways to boost your professional online presence.
Be a follower as well as a leader
Some social media experts teach others how to build their online following, yet only have a small number of engaged followers themselves. In my experience, the most effective way to build your following online is by engaging with people that you look up to. Also engage with their followers. Has somebody made a good point? Then comment or share.
If you’re sending a connection request on LinkedIn, add a personal note. We are all flattered by attention, so include why you would like to connect with them in your introduction. E.g. I read your post with interest because…
Look for the people who share your values. Social media is so fast-paced that it’s easy to build a picture of someone. Are their posts congruent with who they say they are?
Feedback from people who I meet in person for the first time tell me they were drawn to meet me because I appear informed but non-judgemental. With fourteen years’ lobbying experience, I’ve learnt how to get my voice heard in a way that is direct but not confrontational.
Your posts shouldn’t be contrived. Simply show up as the best version of yourself. My personal motto is ‘Speak from the heart to be heard’ and I drum this into anyone who attends my public speaking and media handling workshops!
Handling your mistakes
You might slip up sometimes. We’re only human. And the more you post, the more likely it is that you will make an error. In my first detailed blog on Afusat Saliu’s asylum situation (the lady whom my Change.org petition was based on), I made a factual mistake about a certain date.
The error arose as a result of her emotional and therefore jumbled account of her circumstances when we first met. A follower picked this anomaly up months later and called me out on Twitter. By then, I had been through Afusat’s legal paperwork and had established a clear chronological order. I replied owning the mistake and explained the reason, which satisfied the query. Integrity is crucial.
Build your brand
Be yourself. I want you to take at least thirty minutes so sit in peace and think about what makes you tick – the whole person and not just the work ‘you’. Which additional skills, attributes and contacts do you have that others would value? What sets you apart? So many women struggle with this exercise, but please get over your self-deprecation, only you will read the list.
Then consider what lights you up. Is it sports, volunteering, art? What’s unique to you? How might all of these gifts be used to help others? Circle the words that jump out at you. Now I want you to play around with them. Can you create two sentences from these words which sum you up?
Your personal profile
Your profile text may vary slightly, depending on the social media platform. Did you note the slight difference? On Twitter I want people to quickly see my broad interests, whereas on LinkedIn, my aim is to connect with the right people for business opportunities.
Though focussing on my values and creating social impact outside of my work sphere, I’ve scaled my personal profile and the opportunities that it brings by considering the way I show up – online as well as offline. My experiences led to the creation of my mission-driven business, Inspiring Women Changemakers, because I want women like you to benefit too.
I’d love to support you in building your brand through a range of ways. It starts with a conversation. Email me at email@example.com
Anj Handa is the Founder of Inspiring Women Changemakers. She helps women to speak up: for themselves, for others & for social issues.